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street view of The Barnes in San Francisco Union Square

Ex-Villa Florence hotel, The Barnes, opens in Union Square

January 9, 2023

San Francisco’s former Villa Florence Union Square hotel at 225 Powell St. has quietly reopened to guests with a new look and new flag under its new owners. Now dubbed The Barnes and managed by SPIRE Hospitality, the hotel opened in December after a multimillion-dollar revamp of all 189-rooms. The hotel isn’t done — further capital improvements to the lobby and restaurant are on the way, but in the meantime the ground-level restaurant has been refreshed and reopened as a kind of entry point to that ultimate concept, also pegged for late 2023.

Rooms start at $179 per night for a 252-square-foot room with a queen bed, and pets can come too for a $50 per stay fee. See our slideshow for a walk through the rooms and mid-evolution lobby bar and restaurant.

New York-based AWH Partners and capital partner The Roxborough Group, based in San Francisco, acquired the hotel from Pebblebrook Hotel Trust in Sept. 2021 for $87.5 million, or $462,963 per key, seeing the down time as an ideal one to invest in a historically exceptional market. It’s AWH’s and SPIRE’s only San Francisco hotel.

Including the future work, the full repositioning is expected to wrap up by the end of the year for a total investment of around $12 million. That’s about the same cost as Pebblebrook earmarked for its renovations to several properties that were delayed by
the pandemic and only partially mapped out (but fortunately in this case, permitted) ahead of the change in ownership.

While some Union Square and downtown hotels took their time reopening in 2021 amid sluggish demand, The Barnes’s debut mid-way through its revamp shows the owners’ aggressive bet on the nearer-term recovery of the city, said Richard Sandoval, vice president of operations who oversees West Coast hotels for Irving, TX.-based SPIRE Hospitality, which is owned by AWH Partners. “We literally took over the hotel in September and swung a hammer in October, so it was pretty aggressive,” he said. “The owners could have sat on the sidelines, but they wanted to help and be part of the recovery.”

The established opening comes in time for the 41st annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference Jan 9. – Jan. 12 — the most important corporate event for this slower time of the year — and the return of tourists from Western Europe, Mexico and Canada who can take the Powell Street cable car line nearly to the doorstep.

“2023 already feels tangibly different,” Sandoval said. He noted foot traffic for Union Square for the last week of December was up over 60% year-over-year, as measured by reports using smartphone location data. “People complain it’s not 2019, but there’s many good things we’re already seeing.”

The hotel’s branding and design was configured in-house and with input from local architect Gensler, some of the original elements softened and others strengthened to broaden appeals for today’s post-Covid world, resulting in “a Western European aesthetic to the building but a very contemporary San Francisco space,” Sandoval said.

As seen in San Francisco Business Journal on January 6, 2023.

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